As is now common for so many, after spending three years at university and gaining a debt of almost £40,000, the only work I have been able to find is in a local bar on a zero-hours contract.
Marx said that capitalist competition is three-sided. He used the example of a battle between two armies, buyers and sellers, each of whom also fight amongst themselves. Whichever ‘army’ fights least amongst themselves will fare best in the market.
The bar I work in ‘employs’ many more people than is required to fill all the available shifts. Every week, a text is sent out asking when you would like to work. This means every member of staff is competing against every other member of staff in order to receive enough shifts, which means staff members are much less likely to complain.
If you ‘cause a fuss’, the fear is that you won’t receive a shift the next week. Many staff members complain about not receiving enough shifts to pay for their living costs and many others have to work in multiple bars, sometimes working two shifts a day.
The issue of zero-hours contracts is not an issue of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ capitalists. Obviously, some capitalists will be nicer than others but at root, capitalism is a system of production for profit, which works through private investment from competing capitalists. The smaller and weaker capitalists are forced out of business by the big and powerful.
I work in a small, independent local pub for a manager I like personally but the capitalist system means this pub will be run out of business by the major monopolies such as Wetherspoons, which also use zero-hours contracts ruthlessly, if they did not treat their staff in this manner.
The only way, therefore, to completely get rid of this kind of practice is to get rid of capitalism. It is not enough to boycott major companies or introduce regulations, which can later be abolished. We must build socialism by taking the major monopolies under public ownership and run democratically by the workers. This is what a revolution looks like.
by Harry Fitzwilliam, London Young Labour